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Dirty Feet and Holy Ground.

8 Aug

There’s dirt on my feet – and I’m not sure I’m ready to wash it off. Today, I believe I stood on holy ground.

If you were to ask those near the village of Nevrincea, they’d say there’s hardly anything holy about the place. The village boomed under the Communist regime, but few people move there anymore. Abandoned houses line the pockmarked gravel roads. A Catholic church hides behind overgrown trees – no one comes to worship anymore. There is no business district, no cluster of retail stores, no beautiful park with swings and picnic tables. Silence is broken by the sound of chickens or turkeys.

Today, I walked those roads with a team from Red Page Ministries, House of Joy, and First Baptist Church Levelland. Our goal was to simply share love. Today, that love looked a lot like groceries, diapers and bibles. Twenty-nine bags. Twenty-nine bibles. Twenty-nine families. My team took our six of the twenty-nine and began our journey.

Every home was a story – every story a prayer.

Flora.

Flora’s eyes were a color I had never seen before – a blue-gray that looked like a troubled sky. Yet there was life in them that was far bigger than the disheveled home with dirt floors and crumbling stone walls. I found myself staring at those eyes, wishing I could see things from their point of view. Flora and her husband survive from money made selling fruits and vegetables from their garden in the summer. Her health is failing, but she knows she must keep working. The window is short – and the winter months are hard. She prays but doesn’t feel close to God. She wept when we prayed for her.

Marioara.

Marioara cares for her granddaughter during the summer. Her husband died from the ravages of alcohol when he was 40, and her children have moved away. Now at 60, her hope rests in the pension she will receive when she is 62. It’s a standard retirement stipend provided to all Romanians. The 300 Lei (about $100 US)  monthly is almost more than she can comprehend. For now, she waits – and hopes. She says she knows about Jesus, but doesn’t feel she really knows who He is. She feels so alone. She smiled when my friend Wanda gave her a pair of reading glasses – she can now see the words in her new bible.

Ioanna.

Ioanna and her husband moved to Nevrincea in hopes of finding a better life. And theirs is better in comparison – they raise four pigs and two cows each year to help provide food and earn a living. The floors of their home are planks – a gift from children who now live in Italy and want to help make the family home safer. Their youngest son is in high school in Timisoara, and they don’t know where the money will come from to let him continue classes (there are no high schools in the villages – children have to move away if they want any hope of a good education). She says they believe in hard work, and in caring for others. They give all the glory to God. She hugged and kissed and hugged us again, and didn’t want us to leave.

The stories continued along those dusty roads. Two sons caring for a mentally challenged brother – alone with no parents, a mother and daughter waiting for dad to return from prison, a mother struggling to care for her sometimes violent son. Nicoleta’s family lives there too.

With every step, I heard Christ say, “See Me there – in the hungry and the hurting, in the lonely and lost. Serve Me there – on the dusty road, in the forgotten villages.” With every step in Nevrincea, I thought of those in my own city who have stories of struggle and pain. That dusty road isn’t just in Romania. That road is in my home town. That road is holy ground.

 

Romania – Hope and Light

6 Aug

It’s Saturday morning, and I sit in our hotel room in Budapest, burning CDs for our journey to Romania. The concert that plays through the earbuds brings tears to my eyes – the songs combine into one great symphony of hope and light for the broken. In my mind’s eye, we are already on the road that shifts from smooth to rough at the border, reminding us we are stepping back in time a bit to a country still struggling to find its own place in a sea of neighbors who dismiss it as worth just a little less than valuable. I’m standing in cities that are marked with memories of communism – but not in the pristine, memorialized way that is the stuff of tour buses and maps. And I’m walking roads filled with the dust of poverty as money which fills the coffers of city programs runs dry before it reaches the villages. Romania is broken. But the words of the songs speak the truth – there is a symphony of hope and light.

The team from FBC Levelland.

I’m traveling with a team from First Baptist Levelland (a small community in West Texas). For everyone, even those who have been to Romania before, this is a first-time experience. We’ll visit a local orphanage and spend time with the discarded children there. We’ll do a special end-of-summer camp for village children, teaching them a program designed specially for the Red Page Teams by Kids Beach Club. And we will deliver groceries to sustenance farmers who struggle daily to provide for their families. Only 11% of the homes have adequate sewage. Some have no electricity. And only 25% of the children will ever make it to high school. Sickness and disease are rampant in some of the villages.

In fact, the brokenness is so overwhelming in Nevrincea, some locals have asked if the people are cursed. But I know better. I know hope is on the way. I’m traveling with it today, and I’ll watch it in action. The 9 people on my team have never been to Nevrincea, but they’ve fallen in love already. They’re ready to walk the streets, pray with the farmers, and provide the support needed to change lives for the better – for now and for eternity. That kind of love is a symphony. We need more of those songs in this world.

Learn more about the work FBC Levelland is doing with Red Page Ministries, and how you can change the lives of those living in rural Romania.

Tango.

31 Jan

It’s very early here in the small village of Susani. I’m wrapped in a warm wool blanket, reading and writing, on the sofa of the living room of Ovidiu and Adina Petric, a kind couple who works daily to serve the people here. Our 22-hour journey by plane and van brought us here last night, to this home filled perfumed with the fragrance of homemade chicken soup and sarmale (cabbage rolls served with sour cream).

Chicken soup with handmade noodles. And a pepper. Divine.

Today we’ll travel another six hours by van to a ski area near Brasov – a village where, for three days, we’ll work with 32 teenagers selected to participate in a youth discipleship camp. I’ve worked at camps before, yet I know this will be an experience fresh and new.

Continue reading

House(s) of Joy.

28 Jan

You might call it a ritual. I’m snuggled in bed with my laptop, my pup, and a cup of coffee. I’ve read scripture and journaled my confessions and hopes and dreams. Outside of the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard and the birdsong outside, it’s quiet. So very quiet.

There are suitcases to be packed and itineraries to be printed and reminders to be emailed. But right now, in this moment before the moments, I simply ponder what it will be like to dance with orphans again. Continue reading

Aqueduct.

16 Jan

It’s raining outside. It’s of those gentle rains that soaks the earth and fills the lakes and streams in a kind, nurturing way. I always hear my mom’s voice say, “it’s a soaking rain – the kind that gives life.” And today, I can almost smell that life in the heavy wet air.

It’s a beautiful thing, the rain that falls not just onto the ground but also tickles my face like an impish schoolgirl. Its work isn’t just in the immediate – its power will go on as it is carried by streams and rivers to farmland or as it is purified and used to quench the thirst of people in need. Flowers will bloom and wildlife will flourish and the air will be a bit better because of it. As it is carried along, today’s gentle rain gives life tomorrow and the next day and the next.

I think about the life-giving rain we have been honored to receive through Christ. It’s eternal rain – yes – but it’s also life-giving in the here-and-now. He soaks us with His salvation and nurtures us through His sanctification. His rain is our provision in every way. His rain is life in our veins. His rain causes our hearts to bloom with love and flourish with good works. And He allows us to be His aqueducts.

Carriers of grace, mercy, love, life.

Yes, like the streams and rivers that carry the rain from one life-giving moment to another, we are aqueducts – carriers of His life-giving rain. We are the bridge that spans valleys and desolate lands. Ours are the hands that are cupped to hold the rain out to those who are thirsty. Ours are the feet that stand firmly in place as the rain flows through us to those desperate to receive it.

God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it, “He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out.” This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God. ~2 Corinthians 9:8-11

We are conduits of God’s grace. ~John Piper (Desiring God)

~Ronne

Gift.

30 Dec
Sleep in heavenly peace. This was the best gift I received this Christmas.                      What was yours?

~Ronne

(in)courage

30 Dec

I always love fresh words and phrases from others who are on the journey. Let this be an (in)couragement to you as well.

http://www.incourage.me/2010/12/prayer-changes-things.html

~Ronne

Exposed.

26 Oct

The trees stand along the crowded boulevard in Guatemala City, offering shade and beauty. They are majestic and sprawling, with strong branches and leaves that seem to never turn. They reach toward the sky with power and grace.

Years of erosion have stripped away the soil, leaving a winding map of life beneath each tree. Their roots trail along the incline, exposed.  It seems the toll taken on the very foundation of each tree would kill it. Yet the trees rebel against the elements. Still they grow.

Today, I’ll see strength like those trees at Cerecaif in the faces of the women caring for the 65 children who have been removed from abusive homes.  The women cook every meal, tend to every hurt, wipe away every tear, mend every donated garment. They love and nurture and guide and direct the God-crafted family ranging in age from 3 to 18.  They teach the children how to tend to the pigs and chickens and goats, how to cook and bake and clean, how to make up their beds in the morning and say their prayers at night.

And they are exposed.

The small cinderblock orphanage sits on the side of a busy road, shielded only by a retaining wall and metal gate. A bakery was built – but it is outside the gate. A man used to work at the orphanage, making repairs and tending to the livestock, but he moved. The women pray every day for a man to join them in caring for the children and the orphanage. But that type of work isn’t something most men want to do.

Mission teams come to Cerecaif – but few men are on those teams. If heavy construction is needed somewhere, the men are ready to travel. But if the construction needed is the restoration of a child’s confidence or security through things like a simple hug or swinging on a swingset, the teams are filled with women.

Today, as you pray for our journey, will you pray for the women of Cerecaif? Will you pray for a man to answer the call to work at the orphanage? And will you pray for more men to say “yes” to being role models and friends to the discarded?

~Ronne

Giving thanks.

18 Oct

Undies for Orphans!

Duffle bags are being filled in Maryland, Florida and Texas.  They will be emptied in Guatemala City, Quetzaltenango (Xela), Santiago, and Antigua.

As go those duffle bags, so will go hearts.  Filled and emptied.  The only difference between the two is that, unlike the duffle bags, the filling and emptying of hearts will happen simultaneously – and repeatedly.

So many precious people have assisted us here in Texas with our duffle bag goodies for the orphans and caregivers we will serve while in Guatemala. You have filled our hearts!

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Well, hello there!

8 Oct

Welcome to our journey!